The Length of a Sword Blade
Sword blades come in different lengths which we call Hawatari. But aside from Hawatari, there are several things to consider when choosing a sword. More so in training and actual fight, the weapon has a lot to say.
First in the list is the material composition. A swordsman examines the weapon’s metal content. Notably, he evaluates the strength and durability of the steel.
He also takes into account the quality of production. Swords come into two types, handmade and factory-made. The former undergoes a more meticulous and longer smithing. Whereas, the latter involves mass production by machine. It thus takes a shorter time to complete.
Another essential qualification is the shape. The Sori or curvature of the blade is what mostly determines this. It organizes itself into six classifications. In each, the curve falls on a different location.
Now this time, let’s focus on and dig deeper into Hawatari.
What is Hawatari?
Hawatari refers to the length of the blade of a Samurai weapon. The weapon can be a sword, knife, dagger, or the like.
This term also denotes walking on the edge of a sword. Such definition derives itself from Hawatari in combination with Kamui. Now, “Kamui: Hawatari” is a technique involving the edge of the blade. Developing this is Kazuhide, a freelance contractor in Kyoto. He descends from the Uchiha Clan which is now nearly extinct.
The technique is an advanced applicable performance of the Kamui: Tamahagane. It uses a variation of Kazuhide’s alternate dimension as a medium. Through this, a swordsman can project his sword strikes outside of his natural range. It directs the weapon to a position his focal point determines.
He accomplishes this technique in two distinct steps. The first one involves channeling the intangibility of Kamui. He does it through an ethereal armament while performing a simple attack. In this state, the blade passes through any objects without harming them. Making this possible is the weapon’s physical existence in a separate plane.
The second step completes the maneuver. Here, the swordsman rather than the blade releases the kinetic force of the strikes. The strikes go at a specified point in space. With this, he obtains the results of his melee attacks anywhere he focuses his vision. Hence, he gets additional tactical freedom during the fight.
What are the Classifications of Swords According to Hawatari?
Tanto is the shortest type of Samurai blades. Comprising this group are knives and daggers. They measure 1 Shaku or less. People thus often call them “short swords”. Examples of these are the Tanto itself and Kaiken.
Measuring 30 centimeters or less, Tanto is a single- or double-edged dagger. It is a straight sword rather than curved. Swordsmen historically used this as a stabbing weapon.
Kaiken, on the other hand, is a dagger about 20 to 25 centimeters long. A single- or double-edged sword, it has no ornamental fittings. It houses itself in a plain mount. While not a traditional Japanese weapon, the Samurai employed it for self-defense. Women, for instance, would keep this in their Kimono, ready for any possible danger. In addition, its use was mostly indoors.
Shoto consists of swords measuring 1 to 2 Shaku. This category includes the Wakizashi, Kodachi, and Ninjato.
Wakizashi is a traditional sword measuring 30 to 60 centimeters. It is similar to but definitely shorter than the Katana. Swordsmen commonly used this as a complementary weapon to the latter. They together formed the Daisho, a pair of long and short swords. This combination gave them an additional advantage in fighting.
Moving on, Kodachi is a small version of the Tachi. Its shape is similar to that of the latter. However, it measures less than 60 centimeters. This length, aside from the handling techniques, makes people confuse it with the Wakizashi. Actually, it is too long for a dagger but is too short for a sword. Hence, the label “primary short sword” is just appropriate.
Lastly, Ninjato is the sword Ninja or Shinobi used in feudal times. Like the previous one, it is less than 60 centimeters long. Its blade is straight with a square guard.
This classification comprises the longest Samurai swords. These weapons measure 2 or more Shaku. As such, “long swords” is what the Japanese commonly name them. They sometimes spell this as “longswords”. Katana, Tachi, Nodachi, Uchigatana, Nagamaki, and the Daito itself serve as examples.
Katana is the primary sword of the Samurai. Its length is between 60 and 73 centimeters. Single-edged, it has a slender and curved shape. The user holds it with both hands. Facilitating this are its square or circular guard (Tsuba) and a long grip.
Moreover, we can trace its beginnings from the Muromachi Period. Ever since users wore this with the blade facing up. It allowed faster and more efficient drawing and cutting.
Meanwhile, Tachi is slightly longer and curvier than the Katana. Its invention and development came before those of the latter. Samurai historically used it on horseback. Drawing and cutting were very quick and efficient, in fact.
Huge and two-handed, Nodachi is even longer than the Tachi. However, both have a similar appearance. In history, foot soldiers would carry this as a weapon for war. Because of its length, they often used it in open field engagements and cavalry.
Moving on, Uchigatana measures between 60 and 70 centimeters. Its thickness allows users to hold it with only one hand. Because of its short Tang, it weighs light. Hence, drawing and slashing become convenient and effective.
Nagamaki is another long sword. Its handle and blade are of equal length, each measuring more than 2 feet. As a whole, the weapon is about 60 centimeters. Such length evolved from that of long Nodachi.
Finally, Daito is a very large sword. It measures 70 to 90 centimeters. It thus ranges in the Daisho.
What are the Uses and Advantages of Each Sword Type?
Because of their short length, daggers are obviously close-up weapons. They are better when fighting in confined areas. Hence, swordsmen use them for stabbing attacks.
Kaiken, for example, is mainly for self-defense. A Samurai woman would carry it while moving in with her husband after marriage. She would place it in her Kimono, ready to use it to defend herself. It could be either in the sleeve pouch or in a pocket.
Interestingly, short swords have some of the advantages of longswords as well. Particularly, they can effectively cut and thrust. However, it depends on the type of weapon.
A Tanto dagger, for instance, is primarily for stabbing. However, warriors also use it for slashing. It has, in fact, a thick cross section. It aids in piercing the armor of the opponent.
Moreover, a short sword generally weighs less than a longsword does. Thus, it is easier to carry as a personal weapon on a daily basis. Another advantage is that it is easy to draw from the cover. This results in a more efficient and effective cutting against the opponent.
Unlike short swords, long swords are all-around weapons. They are good for both offensive and defensive functions. Also, because they are large, they are perfect for the open field. They obviously have a wider reach, giving the swordsman an additional advantage.
He thus maximizes distance while not comprising his attacks. Nagamaki is the perfect example of this case. It is highly suitable for broad slicing strokes and sweeping. In fact, Samurai historically used it as an infantry weapon, mostly against the cavalry.
Unfortunately, their length gives them a limitation. They are not fit for close quarters. This is evident in the case of Nodachi. Since it is enormous, it is not an effective weapon for small or closed areas. As such, foot soldiers used it instead in an open battle. They also highly preferred it against the cavalry.
It is easy to imply that a longsword is substantial in proportion to its length. We assume it reduces the speed by which the user draws it. In turn, this affects the quality of cutting. Nevertheless, a longsword is very convenient to use.
Tachi, for instance, is quick to draw and efficient to cut against the enemy. This is also true with the Uchigatana. In addition, however, this does not interfere with the use of polearm. It also satisfies the need for speed in open battlefields.
In the case of Nagamaki, the hands do not change a lot when handling it. The wielding is very specific for a fixed holding position with both hands gripping. Hence, one performs very few sliding actions on the handle.